Pubs across the UK showed their true worth during the coronavirus epic, and Admiral Taverns tenants were no exception.
The lockdown showcased the importance of operators to their local communities and the role that pubs play, from bringing people together to providing vital services and the Great British Pub Awards Pub Heroes 2020 aims to shine a light on that.
Ed Bedington, editor of The MA, which organises the awards, said: “Admiral has some superb operators within its portfolio and the crisis really tested peoples innovation and imagination. Whether it was providing vital services to shielding regulars, or helping to keep their communities connected at a time of isolation, Admiral’s operators did an amazing job.
“We’ve put forward six out of many deserving cases for you to read and pick out your winner in this very strong category of great operators.”
The shortlisted pubs are:
Victoria Hotel, Castleford
Existing ‘pre-lockdown’ as a lovely wet-led community pub near Castleford, the Victoria Hotel is an inspirational example of a community champion. The licensee Michelle has totally changed the operation of her pub business in light of Coronavirus in order to support her local community.
Unable to sell drinks and with her carvery inaccessible to the public due to social distancing regulations, Michelle reconsidered the structure of her business both on paper and in practise and started delivering food to her customers as well as redesigning her pub in order to minimise the risk of Coronavirus to her customers.
During lockdown Michelle cooked, packaged and delivered 250 meals a week to customers around the area and also delivered food parcels to the local council group who were self-isolating and without support. As the service grew in popularity, she expanded the delivery service to cater to a wider group of customers.
Michelle then uprooted her carvery units, which previously served carvery meals upstairs in a function room, installing them downstairs in her lounge area to provide a safe way for her customers to collect the takeaway food she was providing and the pub-dinners they were unable to enjoy as normal. To flip the business on its head in such a difficult time would be a challenge for anyone, but it was a challenge Michelle took in her stride. The willingness to reconsider everything her business stood for and to make it a success for her community is a strong characteristic of this community champion and why we’ve nominated Michelle in the Admiral Taverns category.
Golden Lion, Richmond, Yorkshire
The Golden Lion, situated in the Yorkshire town of Richmond, is a pub which can boast so many inspiring examples of how it supported its local community during lockdown, its hard to single out just one.
Determined to offer support to her customers from afar, the landlady issued an initial post on social media, offering support to anyone who was shielding or needed help. David Wiley and his wife were one couple who took her up on the offer as David was at risk and the couple had no family nearby. A message from David said ‘She was a godsend. Nothing was too much trouble. She fetched, carried and delivered a variety of essentials for us, went to the post office to mail documents and parcels for us, got us flowers for our son’s grave, went to market stalls and shops. The icing on the cake was when she bought wine and beer to cheer the mind! We cannot thank her enough for her selfless deeds…such acts of kindness and assistance in difficult times’.
As well as looking after the vulnerable in her community, licensee Janice also supported those with young children who would struggle to go to the shops.
Using social media to connect to her customers was another way Janice reached out to her community to bring them all together – constantly asking if people needed any help, support or even just a chat over the phone.
Keeping spirits high through the crisis was undoubtedly a difficult task but the Golden Lion was determined throughout the crisis that COVID-19 would not dampen spirits. Unable to carry out their planned events, the pub still maintained their Easter celebrations, decorating the exterior and windows for all passing by to see and sending images and videos to their customers via social media. Each year the Easter displays are normally judged by the town mayor, so keeping this community tradition was important to all the locals. The pub also replicated this with celebrations on Victory in Europe Day.
Looking to the future Janice and her husband decided that while they might not be able to host their community ‘on -site’, they could work to improve the site for their eventual return to create an even better atmosphere for customers to enjoy. Refurbishing the garden with new seating areas and tables, pretty flowers and atmospheric lighting gave the customers something to look forward to when the pubs were able to reopen.
The Golden Lion is a pub full of heart and nothing was too much trouble for the licensees during lockdown to ensure their regulars and their community were supported which is why they would make a worthy winner of the Admiral Taverns community champion award.
Ox & Plough, Washington, Tyne & Wear
Fairly new to the helm at the Ox and Plough, this mother and son team were faced not only with the challenge of running their first pub and re-creating a community spirit around the pub in their community Washington, but also of COVID-19 forcing them to close their business as they knew it. The licensees’ actions in the face of this were inspirational as they changed their business model to adapt to the situation and came out of it with a stronger community around the pub and incredible support from their locals.
Anthony created a website, OrderPresto, to allow the pubs food offering to be moved online and to support a delivery and takeaway service. Pre lockdown the pub had traditionally offered a Sunday lunch service for locals. When the food offer moved online the pub tripled its order requests!
The team also moved the launch of their midweek ‘café’ style food online during lockdown, offering a midweek takeaway and delivery service of home cooked meals with a tailored service and discounts available. Over the lockdown period the pub cooked and delivered over 1,000 meals to their community. They even made sure events which were supposed to be celebrated were marked with specific packages, offering a tea party package for the VE day celebrations.
With the launch of their midweek meals restricted to specific days, Anthony and his mum found they initially had some food left over from providing these meals. Instead of throwing it away, the team put together food parcels to be delivered across the community to those who were shielding or could not leave their houses. In their first week they delivered over 100 food parcels to those in need.
By changing the business model at the Ox and Plough, Anthony and his mum gave customers the support needed when they couldn’t get out to the shops ensuring no one went hungry, and provided meals when people couldn’t visit the pub and enjoy a delicious Sunday lunch. Their willingness and speed with which they changed the business around was inspirational and really demonstrated the support the pub gave its community.
Since lockdown has ended, sales at the pub have fully recovered even without their main event of the week, the Friday night live music sessions which are currently unable to go ahead due to COVID-19. The pub is now fully fledged into the community and are being rewarded for their lock down initiatives.
Royal Oak, Worsley, Manchester
The Royal Oak is a prime example of a pub who has really championed their local community of Worsley over the past few months, despite facing many hardships themselves. Since taking on the pub three years ago, licensees Karen and Tom have worked incredibly hard to change the reputation of the pub and have emerged from lockdown stronger as a business and as a community. The couple have been rewarded with huge support from the local community, including locals returning to the pub after 10 years of not visiting.
From the day the Royal Oak was forced to close, Karen was immediately calling round her customers to see how she could support the elderly and vulnerable within the community whilst sticking to health and safety protocols.
The pub took it upon themselves to cater for the vulnerable as much as possible and Karen has cooked 40 meals, 3 times a week, all out of her own pocket. All of the meals were then delivered to the resident's doors. For many this was the only time they could have a chat with anyone else, which made this supportive gesture all the more important. As word started to spread, local residents left food packages and donations at the pub’s door as a thank you, which helped to cook meals including spaghetti Bolognese, Sunday roasts and apple pie.
On Victory in Europe Day, she supplied draft beer and other drinks in takeaway milk cartons whilst playing music from the pub to bring the community together and continue the celebrations in an appropriate format.
When the local community centre was unable to be used to help the elderly and provide a space for them to meet, Karen looked to another area of her community in need of support and used skills from her other business to make face masks and bags for the NHS and essential workers. She donated £1 from every face mask to Cancer Research, raising over £700 during the period, making over 700 face masks!
Through social media, Karen has kept in constant contact with her community, updating locals on all the work that was being carried out at the pub, including a refurbishment of the bar area, new furniture and a fresh look inside and out. Her aim was to ‘wow’ her customers upon reopening, and the exceptional feedback from customers who’ve returned post lockdown certainly proves this was effective.
Karen and Tom’s vision for the Royal Oak was to turn it back into a local community village pub. Despite COVID-19 and despite the significant flooding the pub was affected by immediately preceding lockdown, the licensees have put an incredible amount of hard work into the pub and have been rewarded by a loyal and supportive customer base. Their efforts and refusal to allow external circumstances to stop their championing of the local community have been remarkable and more than demonstrate why they would be a worthy community champion winner.
Holmefield Arms, Whitwell, Worksop
Despite not being able to host the array of events she had planned during the spring and summer months of 2020, licensee of the Holmefield Arms, Kay Towers has kept her community entertained during lockdown by making these virtual and COVID-19 friendly. Events have been organised to support local charities and Kay invested a huge amount of her time into supporting the village and ensuring the community had someone to turn to during lockdown.
Each night, Kay invested two to three hours of her own time to create a football card raffle. Members of the community could pick a square ranging from £2 to £10 then one was picked at random to win the prize. She set out a target to raise £200, which was smashed almost instantly. During lockdown she managed to raise over £1,400 for the local community and charities including those supporting serious diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s. All the money raised for the community was part of her strategy to give back, and the funds will enable the local pantomime to take place in December 2020. On Victory in Europe Day, she also cooked a takeaway buffet for the local community to ensure the occasion was marked.
Licensee Kay also gave up her time to help with a community project set up to support local suppliers and supermarkets to donate food to the local food bank. She helped the volunteers to distribute much needed supplies to local residents who were particularly vulnerable and unable to get the essentials they needed. If anyone in the community ever needed support, Kay is well known as the ‘go-to’ person.
Throughout lockdown she kept in constant contact with her community and local customers on social media, always offering a chat to people who needed support and keeping customers updated on all her charity fundraising. One very successful initiative she ran on Facebook asked local residents to nominate individuals to receive a free cream tea package as a treat. Kay made over 200 cream teas over lockdown, even leaving some as a surprise on their doorsteps. As expected, residents were enormously grateful.
For Easter Sunday, Kay cooked over 50 lunches out of her own pocket for the most vulnerable in the community to ensure they could still celebrate the occasion.
All her hard-work over lockdown was given recognition from the Houses of Parliament who sent her a letter thanking her for the efforts during the recent months. A huge achievement, which she is very deserving of and another reason why she would be a deserving winner of the Admiral community champion title.
Jolly Brewers, Shouldham Thorpe, King’s Lynn
Since the start of the pandemic, Adam and his team have been incredibly proactive, coming up with quick and innovative ways to engage with their community and offer support. From the offset, they created a local shop at the pub, stocking all the usual essential items, as well as supporting local businesses by selling locally produced craft items, cheese, sauces, rape seed oil and granola to name a few.
The feedback Adam and his business partner, Aaron have received since opening the shop has been overwhelming. It not only bought the community together by offering customers the chance to support local businesses, but also created an opportunity for people to see familiar friendly faces during a tough time. The pub will be continuing the shop going forward, and have now turned their business into more of an all-day venue. The Jolly Brewers is not like any ordinary pub: they offer breakfast from 7am, evolving into a coffee house later in the morning, the shop, which includes a deli, is open during the day and the pub then transforms back into a restaurant and pub in the evening. They have capitalised on the crisis to turn their offer into an appealing, ‘cater-for-everyone’ approach.
Adam is a great example of a licensee who has gone the extra mile and used this time to his advantage. Just as he was forced into lockdown, the pub was in the process of a refurbishment, so it gave him the opportunity to reassess what the community needed. He has nailed this on the head, using the grant money from the government sensibly, adapting the pub to invest into the shop and created more space for a safer environment for his customers.
Throughout lockdown, Adam used his expertise as head chef to offer an Italian takeaway service for the community, which still continues to be served following reopening. All produce is locally sourced and has been well supported by the regulars who are loving their “Italian flavours for all the family”. They also continue to offer speciality nights throughout the week, including “Cheese and Wine Tuesdays”, and “Chicken Wednesdays”. There is truly something for everyone.
They kept in constant touch with the community throughout lockdown via social media, updating on the shop, the refurbishment and any special offers. Any surplus stock was always donated to the local food bank making sure that those who needed food were supplied with it.
The Clifton Arms, Blackburn
The Clifton Arms is a superb example of a licensee who has put everything into caring for her local community during the Coronavirus pandemic.
During normal trading the Clifton Arms spends its time hosting all sorts of events for the community from fundraising days to barbeques, all of which were prevented from happening during lockdown. The licensee Carole set out to provide the most vulnerable with food throughout lockdown. Over Easter the pub provided free lunches to the vulnerable in the community as well as preparing 60 lunchboxes for the postmen and donated Easter eggs to the teachers and children of key workers to keep their spirits up.
Not content with caring for her immediate community, the licensee also made a huge effort to fundraise for the NHS and carers who were working during the crisis to look after the population. To say thank you to the workers and keep their spirits up, they decided to raise money through their social channels to send fruit boxes to the hospital. The pub smashed their target raising over £400 in the first half an hour, which they used to purchase the boxes and take to local hospitals. They also extended this to the seven care homes in the area and sent out fruit boxes and food for the residents and staff of each one.
The Clifton also decided to join forces with Benefit Mankind, to provide lunches to the vulnerable, and see what support they could offer working together. The lunches were filled with delicious snacks and meals and distributed to the Grimsby Park area. In one afternoon the two groups managed to deliver more than 200 individual lunches to the area.
The Clifton Arms have done everything possible to make positives out of the Covid-19 crisis and both the licensee and her team are definitely an example in how to care for your community. The licensee Carol received a BBC West everyday hero award for the support she has offered her community and this, along with the fantastic work she’s done during the crisis makes her a worthy nomination for the Admiral Taverns pub of the year category.
To vote for your winners, click here